?Oh, the ’90s. For an entire generation, the most important moment of the entire decade was when they first heard the words “It’s Morphin’ Time!” on Fox Kids. Sure, Power Rangers exposed kids to thinly veiled racism, xenophobia, racial stereotypes, sexism, and plagiarism, but it was all set to the tune of a hard rock theme and ass-kickery by color-coded superheroes with big helmets and giant dinosaur robots to do their bidding. Kids really didn’t have much of a choice in not liking it.
Although that initial generation grew up, the Power Rangers continued for 16 years and countless series (it even survived its own cancellation last year, when original rights holder Haim Saban bought the franchise back, planning to release a new Power Rangers series next year). That’s a helluva lot of Zord pilots, to say nothing of the other characters that appeared to help, harm, or just hassle the Rangers. And yet, Topless Robot went ahead and tried to figure out the 5 best — and the 5 worst — PR characters to ever grace the screen, Some of it may surprise you, some of it won’t really, while the rest of it will really just make you remember that the girl in Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue was later seen milking the prostate of Joey Kern in Cabin Fever.
5) Ninjor, Mighty Morphin’
It’s tough to really describe how utterly obnoxious and irritating this once prominent Power Ranger ally is, but he makes ninjas seem dorky. And this is from a generation who watched American Ninja and Surf Ninjas. An apparent product of the Power Rangers movie, Ninjor made his debut shortly after the Power Rangers stopped being dinosaurs and instead became mystical ninjas who could summon a new breed of dinosaurs and spiritual animals. With a wholly irritating dubbed on voice, and goofy costume featuring eighties style shoulder pads, Ninjor could fight with the rangers, become gigantic like their enemies, and also turned into a robot at the same time. Characters with a noticeable lack of limitations like Ninjor really have to be seen to be believed. Mercifully, Ninjor faded away into obscurity.
4) Zack the Black Mastodon Ranger, Mighty Morphin’
Obviously, the first of the Power Rangers series derived from Super Sentai that featured the unfortunate quintessential racial stereotypes including an Asian character donning the Yellow costume, and Zack, the Black Ranger, who was also an African-American who spoke slang, wore hip clothing, and even had a very lame martial arts that combined hip hop dancing and kung fu. Even as a kid who favored the Black Ranger greatly, I always found it impossible to believe kids signed up to join his class and learn such an absurd art form. He also sported the lamer of the character arcs with a dinosaur no one really cared about that did nothing but spout steam from its trunk; later he mostly became a second banana who helped our Caucasian heroes reach their goals in many episodes and was woefully forgotten. Poor Zack.
3) Alpha, Mighty Morphin’, Zeo and Turbo
Quite possibly the worst aspect of the entire mythos. But not by choice since he was migrated from Super Sentai and transformed into an erratic, spastic, and sexually ambiguous robot assistant who’d always freak out every time there was an emergency which was pointless considering he always knew what to do in tight situations. Basically he was just C-3PO except much more flamboyant and prone to bitch fits that kept him one-inch away from being royally suplexed by Jason. Later on his voice changed into a tougher Jersey accent with a penchant for being a smart aleck. He was thankfully written out of the series many spin offs later to return briefly in Operation Overdrive after being stored in a giant crate for many years. Ayayay!
2) Sensei, Ninja Storm
Clearly, Clearly a take on Master Splinter from TMNT and Yoda, Sensei was an awful part of the incredibly terrible Ninja Storm, who was nothing more than a badly computer animated hamster (!), that trotted around in Samurai garb and harped poetic to his young rangers stuck forever in his animal form. Seriously, just squash the motherfucker or sick a cat on him and the rangers are yours to conquer without much of a fight to be had. Sensei did almost nothing for the series and even then when he commanded these quick powerful rangers, you could almost sense they were all laughing at his poop pellets behind closed doors. He’d later be returned to his original human form as an even bigger Asian stereotype, and went down in history as a truly uncreative part of the entire franchise.
1) Justin the Blue Turbo Ranger, Turbo
He originally started off as an obnoxious supporting character in the Power Rangers movie who somehow managed to aid in defeating Ivan Ooze by… washing the slime off of suicidal adults under mind control, and then became that classic jumping the shark device: The little rambunctious kid in an all adult cast who added some charisma the adults were now missing. And oddly enough he was also a child who volunteered to take on dangerous intergalactic villains (child endangerment), operated heavy machinery (child labor), and whenever he turned into the Blue Ranger, he became the size… of a man? Why is that, exactly? Is it all the Turbo growth hormones? Or is it just a cheap excuse to squeeze in a little kid to a series on its last legs? Yes. But it’s tough to take the blue ranger seriously when you hear a high-pitched voice behind the helmet.
The best is yet to come, because it’s on the next page.
5) Sam the Omega Ranger, SPD
I will be severely crucified for making such a declaration, but I happen to believe SPD is the most exciting and dramatic interpretation of the Power Rangers franchise I’ve ever seen. The proof the best characters came from SPD is the Omega Ranger, a cheesy but altogether fascinating character destined to become a messianic part of the SPD eventually from a super powered little boy, evolving into a time shifting, super speeding white ranger who’d help the SPD B level Squad to the best of his abilities and always acted as a savior to the young rangers. Obviously, he was just there as a way to include the color white in to the palette, but he was much more interesting than he had any right to be. He later reasonably became the main character of the fun Nintendo DS game as a lone hero traveling through time to stop all of the franchise’s major villains and form a super team of the best Rangers in history.
4) Doggie Cruger the Shadow Ranger, SPD
How could a cornball character like a braided bipedal talking dog be such a cool part of the SPD series? Easy: you make him a commander who taught our young heroes lessons, disciplined them with a stern hand, and only became the Shadow Ranger when the situation absolutely begged it. And even then he was always sort of at a disadvantage since his vulnerability was his allegiance to his extinct race. Acting as the super fast sword wielding warrior of the group, Cruger donned the costume of the Shadow Ranger and fought the worst of the worst only to go back to that fine assistant of his Kat Manx. He may be a dog, but damn, he’s also a player with a saber.
3) Jason the Red T-Rex Ranger, Mighty Morphin’
Jason Lee Scott was an interesting combo of Schwarzenegger acting skills, and Mario Lopez charisma, but as the testosterone fueled leader of the Power Rangers, he led with an interesting moral code, and always took pride in gloating about his martial arts skills by show boating at every turn and berating newer rangers. If you saw the later episode where all of the former Red Rangers teamed up one more time to guide the newest Red Ranger, you’ll notice that he basically does nothing but put down the others and boast about his fairly limited martial arts skills. But as the Red T-Rex Ranger who grunted every bit of dialogue from the very first episode, it was tough not to like him. He was a soft spoken but rather energetic and commanding field leader who proved that the Red Ranger is always the cooler ranger in every series. He could also be seen in that commercial where a young man tries to attack him and he pimps him out in front of the entire smoothie club they hung out in. And once Tommy came on board, he was slowly pushed out only to later appear for a really lame — and thankfully brief — turn as the Gold Ranger for Zeo.
2) Sky the Blue SPD Ranger, SPD
Sure, the Blue Ranger is great and all, but for some reason most of SPD was a lot better than the other spin-offs because of character Sky. Incidentally faced with the most complex characterization of his crew, Sky was a competitive, egomaniacal ranger constantly feuding with leader Jack for the mantle of the Red Ranger. His father and his father’s father were Red Rangers who led the teams and he simply wasn’t allowed the slot because his superior rival Jack was brought on board to take over. So the rest of the series involved an interesting chemistry where they were always trying to one-up each other and struggled to reach a common ground. Their interaction and rivalry was always engrossing, and Sky’s desperation to live up to his family legacy was interesting nine times out of ten, not to mention he always had the best lines and sub-plots including one where a former best friend is secretly a monster assassin he has to face down in a drawing match.
1) Tommy the Green Dragon Ranger, Mighty Morphin’
Tommy was the James Dean of the tights and helmet. He was vicious, he hated Jason, he had a constant thing for Kimberly and then Kat. He had better powers than anyone, a better zord that felt like a Godzilla clone, a cool costume that had its own attachments, and surely enough had a hard enough edge to corrupt the Command Center on his own, destroy the computers, eliminate Alpha, almost kill Zordon, and provide a good antithesis to Jason, who was normally a squeaky clean good guy. Operating the Dragon Zord, Tommy went from embittered Kung Fu rival to brain washed foot soldier for Rita Repulsa, who’d mentally corrupt the inner circle of the friends, and put up a large fight for the Rangers in the battlefield. The Green Ranger was obviously just a lame attempt to market on a bad cool alternative to the Rangers, but it worked because the design was sleek and Tommy was so hardcore. Even well into the franchise, the Green Ranger is still the most dramatic and stern storyline ever written (yes, the episodes have scripts. No seriously!), and Jason David Frank sold every aspect of the Green Ranger from his reptilian delivery of dialogue, to his scowl, to his epic battle with Jason toe to toe. Is it any surprise Tommy has been a recurring presence in the entire mythos? He’s the best.